Individuals in Colosse: Philemon 1:2
Paul had a number of friends from Colosse. These were not just people with whom he was acquainted but personal friends, many of whom had labored alongside Paul in gospel ministry. Three such friends were Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus. Consider Paul’s words in Philemon 1:2, which form the salutation to that letter:
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home (Philemon 1:2).
Philemon, at least, was a close friend of Paul. And Paul’s mention of Apphia would seem to indicate that he knew her as well. Many scholars believe that she was a member of Philemon’s household, probably his wife. Since Archippus was a person of status within the church, Paul’s address to him might be honorary. But it is more likely that he was also part of Philemon’s family, perhaps his son.
Another of Paul’s friends from Colosse was Epaphras. Paul referred to Epaphras as his fellow worker and fellow prisoner and mentioned that Epaphras was a faithful minister of Christ. Epaphras remained with Paul in prison when Paul sent his letter to the Colossian church.
Paul’s friend Onesimus was also from Colosse. Onesimus was a slave who appears to have sought out Paul after fleeing from Philemon and who ended up ministering to Paul in prison.
Most of Paul’s friends seem to have been associated in some way with Philemon. But whatever their relationships to one another, it is clear that Paul had closer relationships with these friends than he had with the church in Colosse in general. But as his letter to the Colossians shows, it is also clear that his relationships with these friends increased his love for all the believers in Colosse.
So then, generally speaking, Paul had a fairly minimal personal relationship with the Colossian church. But he also cared deeply and personally for several of its members. He had strong feelings for their church not only because he was an apostle, but also because of its association with his friends.
Having examined Paul’s relationships with the Colossians in general and with particular individual Colossians, we are ready to investigate the problems in Colosse that concerned Paul. What difficulties did they face? What prompted Paul to write to them?